Know your invasives for Invasive Species Awareness Week

February 28, 2019 2:55 PM
Blog Post

This week (February 25 – March 1, 2019) is National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW). While not as gratifying as National Donut Day or National Landline Telephone Day (March 10), NISAW is just as important.

Throughout most of our days outdoors, we can sometimes take for granted the diverse species of trees in the native Iowa landscape, and sometimes overlook the soils on weekend hikes (when it’s not snowing, raining, freezing, etc.). But while these ecosystems may just be our “home,” we often don’t realize how quickly things can change, especially when an invasive species is introduced.

These species, whether it be insects, weeds or pathogens have the power to drastically alter a landscape by feeding on, or out-competing, plants or other native species. Populations of invasive species are often large enough to kill large numbers of trees and plants, reduce soil quality and result in significant grain yield decreases. For instance, one gypsy moth caterpillar can consume 11 square feet of tree foliation in its 7-10 week feeding cycle. Just five gypsy moth caterpillars can cause up to 55 square feet of damage in a season. Should a tree lose 50 percent or more of its foliation for two straight years, it can be severely weakened or die.

What makes combating invasive species so challenging is that many are capable of being transported by unknowing-humans via transport by cars, boats, pallets, firewood, nursery plants, Christmas trees and many other items that humans move around. Often times, they are not even noticed while filling up at a gas station, or loading up after a Minnesota fishing trip, and the results, if the species are not managed carefully, could be critical.

We can stop the spread of invasive species by making sure to clean boats after sailing or fishing; clean off campers and remove debris on roofs; burn firewood where it is purchased/chopped down; purchase plants from nurseries here in Iowa; and clean off gear before returning home or quarantine gear during travel.

Most importantly though, be aware of potential invasive threats and be observant when out on hikes, camping, runs, bike rides, etc., of the nature around us. If you see something that you suspect could be an invasive pest, please get in touch with someone at Iowa State University, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship or the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Here at Iowa State University, you can contact the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.

Below are some common invasive species that have/or could have an impact on Iowa, and locations to gain more information about them.

Pests of Horticulture/Trees and Shrubs that are in Iowa
Emerald Ash Borer

Gypsy Moths

Spotted Wing Drosophila

Jumping Worm

Field Crops
Tar Spot

Soybean Gall Midge

Soybean Aphid

And of course, your noxious weeds!

Not in Iowa:
Asian Longhorned Beetle

Thousand Cankers Disease

Spotted Lanternfly

State of Iowa Invasive Species Resources
Invasive Plant Species - Iowa DNR

Iowa DNR Forrest Invasive Species Guide


Laura Jesse Iles Director, North Central IPM Center

Dr Laura Jesse Iles directs the North Central IPM Center.   Dr. Iles has earned B.S. (Animal Ecology), M.S. (Entomology), and Ph.D. (Co-major in Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) degrees, all from Iowa State University.  In addit...